Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Jan 13, 2008 10:20 AM

Do you think Asian food is supposed to be cheap?

I'm curious about how most Chowhounders think about Asian cuisine. Over the years I have seen many postings about various types of Asian cuisine. I have noticed that several postings claim that Korean restaurants are too expensive and that Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants are so cheap by comparison. There seems to me an underlying criticism and questioning as to why this is the case. I think we should be careful about generalizations in this context because all too often they do not take into consideration other factors such as quality of ingredients, service, location, atmosphere, labor and what you're getting for the money you're paying. There are high class and expensive Chinese restaurants as there are whole-in-the-wall cheap Korean restaurants in New York. There are also restaurants in between.Let me know what you think?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The chinese lunch buffet and lunch specials are a great value - usually about 5.95, includes soup and tea. Can't beat that. Dinner priced chinese is not such a great deal, most entrees are about $10. But still not crazy priced.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jeanmarieok

      I think for me the whole line of thought into thinking chinese is inexpensive is that if you go out to dinner with eight or ten people, you get about 6-10 dishes, some rice, a big tureen of soup and it usually runs to not much over 100 dollars. Since all the dishes are shared (and cooked to facilitate sharing) it feels like eating a 6-10 course meal, which if you go to a restaurant serving that will cost much more. Of course, usually in Chinese cuisine you don't get magret of duck or a 6 oz. AAA tenderloin unless you're at a strange fusion place or a really really fancy Chinese place (although the fresh steamed fish/whole chickens and duck/lobsters/a lot of seafood are usually quite a good deal) so in my opinion the quality and type of ingredients offered usually makes such a meal comparatively cheaper feeling.

      Conversely our family never considered Japanese food to be "cheap" (of course it's usually connoted with sushi here so that in itself is already not that inexpensive unless you're having some cucumber rolls and futomaki).

    2. I think some great values are available, especially in some Chinese restaurants, where a $8 vegetable dish or $6 soup is a revelation. The fact that there are great inexpensive (and quite underpriced) asian restaurants and dishes makes more expensive ones seem like a bad value in comparison. This is based on food quality alone, which is most of what I care about rather than ambiance and service.

      1. it's funny that nobody puts Japanese in these "asian food" comparisons, which is not usually cheap

        and on the higher end, plenty of people regularly pay big $$$ at places like Nobu, with no complaints

        1 Reply
        1. re: jpmcd

          My friend's father owned a Chinese restaurant and her sister owned a Japanese restaurant. My friend was thinking about opening up a restaurant a few years ago told me that she was leaning towards Japanese as she said the profit margins were a lot higher.

        2. No.

          The reason people think "Asian food" is supposed to be cheap is because most have not had authentic Chinese or Korean food, some of which can be quite pricey.

          Americanized versions of these cuisines is like dining at Denny's and thinking that American food is all about club sandwiches and chicken fried steak and priced at about 5.99 with a senior citizen discount before 5 p.m.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Word. As people are getting a taste of high end Chinese food they are getting used to the idea of paying $50 per person and above, but of course we are not talking about chowmein or fried rice.

          2. I don't know about Korean and Vietnamese restaurants, but I do have a hard time paying what I consider to be "too much" money for Chinese and Malay/Indonesian food. I visit family in Singapore and Malaysia every couple of years, and food there is super cheap. US $2 for a huge plate of stir fried noodles is the norm. So back here at home (So. CA), I automatically convert prices into Singapore dollars or Malay ringgit. If a plate of noodles costs $9.95, I think to myself "wow, that's 36 ringgit!" I can't really help it. I had an issue one time paying $10.95 for roti canai at a Malay restaurant -- it's a dish that costs like US$.75 in Malaysia. All I kept thinking was that my aunt would have a heart attack if she knew how much I just paid for my roti canai!

            It's something I've been trying to work on, but it's hard!

            6 Replies
            1. re: boogiebaby

              That's not fair comparing prices across different economic zones. The living standards in Malaysia is comparatively much lower than in the US.

              1. re: PeterL

                Yes, you are right. I was going to make the same point. For anyone who has travelled Asia & has been able to dine very well on a budget of perhaps $15/day, paying "American" or Westernized prices for dishes seems... weird. Just like any of those imported tie-dye clothes you can get for 50 cents over there, but here they'll charge you $25. Different economies. Bummer.

                1. re: PeterL

                  I didn't say it was fair, but that's just how it is, in my head at least. I have a hard time paying $10 for a plate of food that I would pay $1.00 for in Malaysia.

                  I have the same problem with clothing. Indian style tunic tops are a big fashion trend. But I won't buy them for $75 each because I know in India I could get the same thing for $10. I either wait until they go on clearance and I can get them for $20 or so or I don't get one.

                  1. re: PeterL

                    Of course, when you add in the airline ticket to get to the place that has your cherished food you've got yourself an $800 bowl of noodles.

                    1. re: Blueicus

                      Very good point! And if the price of gas goes up more....

                      It is very hard to compare the cost of food in different economies. I guess if the price difference bothers you a lot, you should just stop eating roti canai in North America. But do you really want to do that? I don't think I could. So your other choice is to make it yourself. Unfortunately, because costs of food items are expensive here, it might still be hard to match the price once you've paid for the ingredients.

                    2. re: PeterL

                      I agree. In Thailand, my sister and I made a terrific meal for ourselves from street vendors for less than $3 US (and that is probably getting charged farang prices). I would never expect a Thai three course meal for two people for $3 in the States.

                      Boogiebaby, I'm wondering where you paid $10.95 for roti canai. In NYC, it's usually $2-$3 in Chinatown. The highest I've seen it is $9 at an overpriced, terrible Pan Asian restaurant on the Upper West Side.